The study of evolution of Tulu language during the past history without doubt shall make an absolutely interesting. Conventional Tulunadu or the West Coast of India /Karnataka being a dynamic cultural zone that has attracted multitudes of immigrants speaking diverse languages over a long drawn period of time during the evolution of human tribes and their languages. As a consequence, the Tulu languages has borrowed and absorbed several words from each of the ambient languages during the past history.
The Tulu language has preserved signatures of imprints of many languages such as Koraga, Munda, Prakrit, Tamil and Kannada. In some of the older Posts in this blog we have tried to present the signature surviving words from languages like Koraga and Munda in the Tulu language.
The preservation of the words from the respective languages has been possible probably due to the lack of written literature in Tulu languages. All languages acquire such influences during the course of their history but in the case of languages with scripts and written documents, homogenization takes place because of conscious corrections imposed by the writers. Wherever such homogenization has taken place original stages of lingual evolution are subject to editing and lost forever.
Tamil-Tulu early relationship
Common words shared in two geographically apart languages like Tulu and Tamil clearly suggest mutual influences during the course of evolution. We find references to Tulu in Tamil Sangam literature in suggestive phrases like “Tulunatta Tamil”. In the older Posts you can find suggestion that “Siri PaDdana” the famed Tulu oral literature has been composed in Tulu under the inspiration of Tamil Sangam literature. In other words, it was suggested that the Siri PaDdana is a signature oral poetry of Tulu Sangam period.
Budhananda Shivalli (1980, 2005) provided a list of some 50 common shared words in current Tulu and correspondingly found in ancient Tamil literature (Tulu Pātero; Appendix 2). His list includes the following examples:
unangal/nungel (=dried up)
eri/eri; uri (=flame/heat/burning)
oli/oli (=speak/call out)
kooval/goovel (=dug well)
kolam/kola (=make up)
teri/teri (=to know)
vai/bai (=straw/hay/dried grass)
vanka/banka (=ship) etc
Further he has provided a comparative list of 192 shared words in the four predominant Dravidian languages of Tamil, Kannada, Telugu and Malayalam apart from Tulu.(Tulu Pātero; Appendix 3). We shall not go into those details now.
However I shall discuss a few key shared words that suggest their frozen status in Tulu language and their possible significance.
kanDani – buDedi
The words kanDāni and buDeti (or buDedi) are the commonly used Tulu words that stand for husband and wife respectively. The Tulu word kanDāni shares history with or was derived from the equivalent of Tamil kanDan. The Tulu word has two variants such as kanDane and kanDanye. The equivalent word for husband is ganDa in Kannada as well as Telugu. Basically, the Dravidian word kanD/kanDan means male person. The –an suffix in kanDan is quite interesting, as –āN in general represents a young man or a boy.
Essentially, the case involves the evolution and adoption of the velar consonants k’ and g’. The Tamil is an ancient literary language and is managing with a frugal set of primary alphabets since antiquity wherein, velars k and g are represented by a single consonant. Probably it was a similar case with ancient Tulu (and probably ancient Kannada also) in the antiquity. However, it appears that after the adoption and introduction of Brahmi script by King Asoka (ca.250 BC), detailed and clear cut consonants such as k-g; c-j; T-D; t-d and p-b etc were delineated and the then existing words were further refined phonetically. Thus Kannada and Telugu after ca.400 CE, modified the original proto-Dravidian kanDan into ganDan and further simplified to ganDa.
The Tulu was in contact with Kannada all along the evolution and also absorbed the evolution of consonants also like Kannada, as evident by the prevalence of words with g’ , but it retained the original form of some specific period antique words like kanDāni without alteration. Probably, the delay in the adoption of script, in the case of Tulu, was responsible for retention of ancient word formats like kanDāni.
In the Kadamba (post-400 CE) period, with immigration of Brahmins and introduction of Brahmin format of Tulu (obviously influenced by Kadamba Kannada) the k-g transition in Tulu is evident. In the Tulu usage ganTa pucche (= male cat) wherein clear k-g transition (kanDa became ganTa) can be identified.
Later in 15 century CE the Portuguese introduced papaya which was translated as ganDukāyi (=male fruit) in Tulu. Note the usage of g for ganDu. However, even then the original antique Tulu word for husband kanDani was frozen in its original state and was not modified with passage of time. The suffix –an/-ani has also been frozen and preserved in this particular word, even though in Tulu, it has been dropped or mitigated in many other words with passage of time.
Note on buDedi
Compared with kanDani the common Tulu word for wife buDedi seems quite unique compared with other Dravidian neighbors. The etymology of the word buDedi is booD’+ ti, which means the woman of the house or precisely, the house wife. Apparently analogous phonetic words do not exist in neighboring languages. It is different from the henDati/ maneyavalu (Kannada) and manaivi (Tamil) and penDlamu/bhārya/ardhāngi (Telugu). However, note that meaning-wise buDedi, manaivi and maneyavalu are the same.